EAST GREENWICH – One of three second-half interceptions sparked East Greenwich’s scoring, and with a smothering defensive effort they moved past Mt. Hope in a 17-6 Division II quarterfinal win.
The Avenger’s football team put up some big offensive numbers on their way to a 6-1 league record and the DII-A two-seed in the playoffs. It was often the defense behind those multi-touchdown scoring nights and against the Huskies (5-2, three seed in DII-B), EG again showed the balance that allows them to win in a number of ways.
“Not only did we play well against the run,” EG head coach John George said. “We had a couple picks against some nice pass plays. They had that one big play but other than that we were pretty tough on defense. You’ve got to play good defense if you want to go far in the playoffs.”
“They were down their top tailback,” George continued. “He was out with a concussion. Still, [sophomore Cory Grifka] was a good, tough runner, and [junior Jalen Kopecky-Morton] was a good, tough runner. Our defense really stepped up and played great.”
Mt. Hope had a total of 35 rushing yards on 22 carries, a 1.6 yards a carry average. EG knew the Huskies plan was to run consistently and maybe try to pop a few passes over the top once they caught the defense creeping to the line of scrimmage.
Carcieri Field’s well-drained turf surface made the game playable after a stormy day, and both teams felt the results from high winds on their offensive production. The only score in the first half was a 25-yard field goal from sophomore Jack McMullen. Another attempted field goal to end the half, went short after a few attempts by the opposing coach to ice the kicker.
EG got their first touchdown directly from an interception. Junior defensive back Josh Petteruti picked off Husky quarterback Jordan Pompey and ran back 28 yards, making it 10-0.
“Josh Petteruti had a really good game,” George said. “I know he had that pick-six down here, but even aside from that he had a really good game.”
McMullen added two more interceptions as the defense nearly held the Huskies scoreless. In the fourth quarter, Kopecky-Morton caught a 92-yard pass for Mt. Hope’s only score.
Junior quarterback Conrad Swanson did a lot of the offensive work with his legs, rushing for 105 yards on 22 carries, while passing for 89 yards, on 10 of 22 attempts. Senior Kevin Licciardi had 63 yards on 14 carries.
“He did well,” George said of Swanson. “He made some good decisions, especially with his legs which he hasn’t done a ton. But with the way they were playing us, we saw that if we ran with the quarterback we could do some things. In the second half, we really started to do that. Some were called plays but even on the plays we didn’t call for it, he gained a lot of ground scrambling around.”
While Swanson had one turnover and made George nervous at times with the way he palmed the ball in that familiar one-handed quarterback scramble-style, Swanson’s athleticism and playmaking ability made it seem like any time he broke the line of scrimmage he could go the distance.
Swanson ran in seven yards for EG’s second touchdown of the third quarter.
Swanson spread out the ball well, throwing for 89 yards on 10 of 22 attempts. Junior Jack Fox had four catches for 27 yards. McMullen caught two for 15 yards, while Licciardi had two for nine. Sophomore Andrew Plympton had one 31-yard reception, and senior John Anderson had one catch for seven yards.
In 2017, EG was the DII-A two-seed and beat 3B Middletown, 21-20 in the quarterfinals. In 2017, they had to face the buzz-saw of NK and lost 56-7 in their semifinal game. NK is now in DI, so their will be a new challenge.
On Saturday at noon, EG takes on the 1B-seed Burrillville at Johnston High School.